The last two nights were little slices of cinema heaven. We watched The Million Dollar Hotel, by Wim Wenders, and it was everything I hoped it would be and more.
I fell in love with Wenders years ago, when I first watched Until the End of the World. Vim is one of the very rare directors who truly cares about the music in his films. He doesn’t treat it like an afterthought, like so many do, coupling some innocous score with a grab bag of 3-second clips from pop songs chosen more for their marketability than for their suitability to the film. He establishes relationships with the musicians who score his movies, and makes the music a character in it’s own right. The only other moviemakers I can think of to give music this kind of promanence are the Coen brothers, with O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and more recently Zach Braff with Garden State.
In Until the End of the World, his sprawling masterwork, Wenders commissioned many of the songs expressly for the movie, including U2’s song of the same name (a different version of which wound up on Achtung Baby). U2 and Wim Wenders go back a long way, and hotel is in many ways the culmination of that friendship. Based on an idea Bono had while shooting the video for “Where the Streets Have No Name”, it is also co-written, co-produced, and scored by Bono. But it is far from a celebrity ego-project. Hotel is an off-beat tragicomedy with an ensemble cast portrayingly a distinctly oddball cast of characters. I’m not going to give a plot synopsis here; it’s a good one, but I’m not much for summaries and it wouldn’t explain what’s so wonderful about this movie anyway. While it’s equal parts love story and whodunit, in a larger sense it’s a meditation on the preciousness of life, even in the most broken-down and seedy circumstances. Full of long, heartbreakingly beautiful shots and moody music, this is a movie to turn down the lights, shut off the ringers, and watch with a soul-warming drink in your hand and a close friend by your side.